Oh, Them Broken Bones

February 20, 2019

Deb broke her calcaneus (heel bone) in early May 2017 while caring for her Mom; and Harry crushed his L1 vertebra when he fell 10 feet off our porch roof this past September.

Accidents happen.  While we can do everything possible to prevent them, sometimes we trip, fall or get injured no matter how careful we are.  Because your children may be at risk of injury on the playground, playing sports or any of dozens of ordinary daily activities, we thought it might be good to share what we know about tending broken bones so that if you are ever faced with having a broken a bone or tending someone who does, you have a resource of healing information.

So, back to our accidents ~

After we sought immediate appropriate professional medical care (by getting Deb to the urgent care center and calling an ambulance [911] for Harry) , we began to apply the things we knew to aid and hopefully accelerate healing of broken bones.

The very first thing that we did when we had our accidents was to use a flower essence specifically for aid during traumatic events:  Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy®.  We were very happily surprised that the ER nurses encouraged the use of this remedy, which we carry with us at all times.  When we returned home, we used our own Red Clover flower essence, which provides a very similar support for trauma and shock.

Let’s not build unrealistic expectations:  different types of fractures and different bones take more or less time to heal.  Some bone breaks might take only 4 weeks to heal while other fractures might take 24 weeks or more. And there are factors such as general health, age and other conditions like osteoporosis that affect healing.  So, it is hard to say what ‘normal’ is for any particular person or break.

Having said all the above, our research and herbal training on broken bones revealed in general it is advised to:
~  Avoid inflammation-causing foods like sugars (including high-fructose corn syrup), artificial trans-fats, excessive alcohol and processed meats.  Instead, eat inflammation reducing foods: ‘good’ cooking oils (like olive oil rather than ‘vegetable oil’), tree nuts, fruit, garlic, aromatic culinary herbs, turmeric, chocolate (YA-HOO!!), green tea, beans, onions and avocados.
~  Move as much as is comfortable when you are able without aggravating the break.  (You definitely could have made a lot of money betting on turtles against Harry right after his failed attempt at flight!)  You need to keep your muscles in tone and prevent atrophy. 
~  Get good nights sleep; a lot of repair and healing occurs while you sleep.
~  Also, there is debate about the application of heat and/or cold to an injury like this.  We chose to alternate between the two.  You may decide to take a different course concerning temperature.  Check with your physician.

And, of course, there are several herbs that should assist a body in healing broken bones:

[If you have any kind of negative reaction to any remedy, stop it immediately.]
* Arnica (Arnica montana) taken as a homeopathic remedy orally and/or applied topically as a cream, gel or ointment as soon after the injury as practical should help reduce swelling, bruising and pain.

* A plant called, appropriately, Boneset (yes, it’s pronounced “bone set”) (Eupatorium perfoliatum) assists bones knitting back together.  This three to four foot tall plant with an open head of small white flowers has the interesting ‘signature’ of having its opposite leaves fused together at their base… a strong indicator of its use.  Actually, Boneset is particularly indicated and useful in spinal compression fractures, as it is believed Boneset will open up the crushed bone to allow new bone to be built as it restores the nearly original shape. We believe we observed this in the progressive X-rays of Harry’s spine.

* Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a powerful aid to healing, but it should be used with a little caution.  Comfrey is a fuzzy perennial plant related to borage with bell-shaped, lavender-colored flowers.  We have a lot (and increasing!) around our home to a point that it might be considered invasive.   It accelerates healing so much that it will cause wounds to close around debris, so make sure wounds are well cleaned and make sure broken bones are properly aligned and set before beginning Comfrey. [Take note:  there is some concern over toxicity of Comfrey root, so only Comfrey leaves should be taken internally as a tincture or water extract.  Also, Comfrey should be avoided during pregnancy.]
* Horsetail rush (Equisetum arvense) is an interesting ‘primitive’ plant (100 million year-old fossils have been found!) that has no true leaves.  It is very high in silica content and acts in aiding strong bone construction.

So, what we did, after the doctors told us the bones were in their proper position to heal and properly immobilized, was to immediately begin our regimen of herbs.  For each of our respective fractures, we took homeopathic Arnica 30c internally once an hour and applied an Arnica gel over the injury three times daily for the first few days.  We also continued to take Red Clover flower essence.  During Harry’s fall, Deb, not surprisingly,  was traumatized as well so she also took Red Clover.

The other above herbs, except Elder, were all taken internally as a tincture (ethyl alcohol extract) thrice daily (except Comfrey, we had overlooked making this tincture [which is most definitely now on our ‘to do’ list for this summer], so we purchased and used homeopathic Symphytum officinale 30c).

We also made infusions (water extracts) of fresh Boneset, Elderberry and Comfrey alternately and drank a quart during the day for several weeks after the accident.  The difference between a tea and infusion is a tea is steeped for 5 to 20 minutes while an infusion is steeped for 4 to 12 hours.  Boneset can be a bit unpleasant so adding a little honey may help render it a little more palatable.  Interestingly, it seems that when Boneset becomes completely unpalatable your body no longer needs it in this form.

And we would take the plant material from the infusions (and Yarrow) and apply a poultice to the skin over the break. (Luckily neither fracture required a solid cast; instead having a brace that was easy to carefully remove to expose the area for treatment then refasten.)

Another tool we employed was homeopathic remedies.
* As mentioned, we used homeopathic Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) 30c.  We also took Silicea 30c (acts similarly to the Equisetum mentioned above), Calcarea carbonica 30c and Calcarea phosphorica 30c all to aid healing and strengthen the new bone being built.  (As mentioned above, we also took Arnica every hour for the first 3 days.)

* Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp), which we will discuss in much more detail in a future letter, helps ligaments and tendons heal while helping bone breaks draw together for proper healing.  And beyond helping with fracture healing, Solomon’s Seal helps keep bone joints healthy by helping the body regulate synovial fluids.
* Yarrow (Achillea millifolium) is a wonderful ‘intelligent’ blood herb.  It stops bleeding from an open wound, yet helps blood flow better to where it is needed thus getting nutrients to the healing bone.  It also helps bruises heal quickly.  This herb was especially helpful for Deb’s broken foot, since she had a badly bruised sprain on top of the fracture. [Take note:   Yarrow should be avoided during pregnancy.]
* In addition to the berries being antiviral, especially against influenza, Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) leaves and stems are also a known treatment for broken bones.  Only very dry or very fresh Elderberry material should be used for medicinal purposes since toxins may develop then dissipate as it dries.

* Once the doctors were satisfied the bone(s) had healed sufficiently to abandon the braces so we could begin physical therapy and approach normal activity, we added Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) root tincture and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) leaf tincture.  Jim McDonald writes: “Teasel root has been used to treat torn connective tissues, and may be among the best remedies for torn muscles.”  Matthew Wood believes Mullein “has a moistening, lubricating effect on the synovial membranes… so that it is hydrating to the spine and joints. It is often indicated in back injuries.  People think they are untreatable and incurable, but an increase [of] the synovial fluids will make the spine more pliable and comfortable. The vertebra will slip back into place more readily, pain and inflammation will decrease and the condition will get better.” Jim McDonald agrees that Mullein is valuable in straightening and realigning the spine, though he suspects a different specific action.  We probably should have added these two herbs sooner, especially for Harry.

The last two things we did were to employ Reiki (pronounced “RAY-key”) and Qi (pronounced “chi”) healing energies (which we and a friend are all able to do) to aid healing during incapacitation.  (Probably not as much as we could/should have since we were more focused on care and comfort of the patient and herbs – and, honestly, initially forgot [Doh!] we had this tool in our repertoire.)  And, finally, when mobility had returned enough to allow, Qi Gong exercises helped immensely to finish the healing processes.

We estimate we increased our bone and other tissue healing rates by mmm… maybe 10 to 20%?  That may not seem significant, but every day quicker returning to ‘normal’ is valuable. (Maybe more,  since Harry was out uprooting wild invasive rose bushes – 15 minutes at a time – 4 months after his fall!)  And less pain is always a good thing too!  Don’t you agree?

While it is not likely you will often (if ever) need a full set of bone building remedies, it might be a good idea to have a few herbs in your home first aid kit.
* Arnica gel or cream, which you can get at most drugstores, is handy for bruises and overworked muscles.  Homeopathic Arnica would be good for the same reasons and may be easier to use if applying topical Arnica is a problem (like reaching the middle of your own back or you can’t get to the damaged area due to a cast).  It is also a must have for days when you’ve physically overworked and your body hurts.
* Yarrow dried leaves (for making a compress or poultice) or tincture is also good at healing bruises as well as stopping bleeding of cuts (the dried leaves for cuts, not the tincture –Yow!).

* Solomon’s Seal tincture or oil (or salve) is good to have on hand for repetitive motion injuries or strains and sprains.  It’s also a good for arthritis.
* Red Clover Flower Essence for times of great shock, trauma or distress.

 One more thing:  if you have broken a bone in the past and it still hurts, using the above herbs and homeopathic remedies may still aid your body’s healing now – even years after the injury.  The same is true with using other herbs and homeopathic remedies for many illnesses or trauma.  Use the herbs that you would have used at the time of the injury/illness to treat longstanding issues and residual pain or distress.

So… go outside, enjoy nature, have fun, be careful and when an unforeseen accident breaks a bone, consider calling on nature for some assistance.  We hope your children don’t have a fall off the monkey bars or an injury when playing soccer but if they do ~ or you do ~ we hope this information is of help to you!

We covered a lot here.  Let us reiterate:  each case is different, so if you use any of this information, your results may be different.   We may be able to offer advice to help you more effectively individually should this or other situations require it – especially if the injury is not straight-forward.  You can contact Deb here.

You can purchase Solomon’s Seal tincture here.  We also have a limited supply of Solomon’s Seal salve you can get here.
To have Sacred Forest Red Clover Flower Essence on hand for shock, please click here.
To your health, happiness and wellbeing,

[Also, let us say that we are not dispensing medical advice or making suggestions for treatment of any disease or condition.  We are merely reporting our experiences.  Seek proper professional medical advice for any medical condition about which you are concerned.  Any statements and claims regarding any product or advice offered have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).]

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Herbs, Medicinal. No comments.

You’ll Miss a Lot Viewing the World Through a Straw

January 21, 2019

Greetings, Friends:
We apologize for being out of touch for more than a year. This letter will explain why and offer a (perhaps) cautionary tale and useful advice. During that time we have learned a lot… about herbs, health and life. We have arrived at several interesting (we think) insights. We will be sharing some of these with you here and in the future. We hope you find at least one of them useful.

When we first married, 14 years ago, Deb had some scary and very worrying neurological symptoms. Several doctors and specialists did many tests and ultimately pronounced that her problem could be any of several dread conditions, but they had no specific diagnosis. Eventually, it was determined that she had been infected with several tick-born rickettsia that were slowly, increasingly affecting her health.

About two years ago, Deb’s Mom was finally diagnosed with 4th stage breast cancer. We say ‘finally’ because she had been having various seemingly unrelated but serious symptoms. One of which was skin lesions or sores. She was given a salve to ‘treat’ them. Another symptom was rapidly deteriorating sight in one eye. The ‘cure’ was a new vision prescription. By the time it was ready it was no longer effective. ‘Finally’, a third medical professional took the larger view and figured out that the eyesight problem was caused by a tumor growing under her eye socket distorting and mis-aligning the eyeball, which was actually a manifestation of breast cancer, which also caused the skin lesions. The first doctors were looking at Mom through the straw of their narrow-focused perspective and specialty. They did not consider looking at her issues with a broader, more holistic view.

Six months later, Deb fell and broke her foot while visiting and caring for Mom up north. Her break was treated more or less appropriately, but a painful fascia tear over her shinbone was missed initially – we assume because it was not a ‘bone problem’ which that orthopedic doctor could/did not recognize (or did not mention) through the straw of his specialty focus on the broken bone.

In her last days, Mom fell out of her bed at the care facility. Immediately, she complained of her arm hurting. Nothing was done except to give her analgesic medications. They did not catch the broken arm until she had suffered a while. With what straw were they looking at Mom – if any?

This past September, Harry thoroughly forgot his childhood flying lessons as he slipped from our porch roof and crushed his L1 vertebra. Thankfully, the hospital staff began looking at him with a broad-field view to ascertain what damage had occurred during the uncontrolled landing. However, again this orthopedic doctor (who thankfully did NOT recommend risky surgery) switched to his specialist’s straw and never really satisfactorily explained why all Harry’s pain was not at the break but elsewhere. Harry’s physical therapist concentrated on restoring muscle strength and mobility, but the pain did not abate. Recently, a young EMT friend suggested that Harry’s pain might likely be from the many tendons and sinews that were likely traumatized upon impact. No one else mentioned this possibility.

One big lesson learned from all these dealings with the American medical establishment is this: a proper medical approach (and with other non-medical endeavors and life in general, too, we would suggest) is to begin with as broad a ‘view’ as possible before narrowing in on specifics. To summarize the analogy: start with the panoramic survey, then bring in the binoculars or magnifying glass and finally employ the microscopes if needed. Do not start with viewing the world through a straw and zoom in… there is so much you will miss.

The other major lesson and point of this letter is to mention that much of the actual ‘care’ and ‘healing’ involved in all the above was through the use of our flower essences, tinctures, infusions, poultices and salves we have collected and made.

Deb helped her Mom through the emotional aspects of her disease with our flower essences and some of her other issues with our tinctures, etc . Deb has been treating, with the help of another herbalist, her own Lyme and other tick-borne diseases with herbs. We believe Deb’s foot and Harry’s back healed more quickly than ‘normal’ (according to the doctors) with our administration of the proper herbs. Recently, a consultation with two other herbalists confirmed our correct treatment of Harry’s back and suggested (again in agreement with our own assessment and approach at this stage of recovery) a slight adjustment to our treatment which quickly addressed his lingering pain and debility. Also, Harry’s injury took us out of our usual Qi Gong sessions. Since he has been able to move more easily and go through some simple Qi Gong routines, his pain has abated and mobility improved even more.

To take this philosophy out into the wider world: We believe there is much healing available in that wider world. Wisdom flows through the interactions at the most macro and micro of scales: the interplay of the heavens and heavenly bodies; the turning of the seasons; how our neighbor plants and animals adjust and adapt to this flow; how one organism benefits or affects another.

Much benefit can come to those who participate in this cosmic and earthly pageant. Scientific studies have shown that participating in the grand design by merely walking in the woods, through a meadow or along a beach can improve one’s physical and mental health. And, of course, we definitely believe there is also much healing in individual plants and working with your internal energy (Qi – pronounced “chi”). (More on both later.)

In conclusion, we suggest you approach your life – and every aspect of your health in a broad-spectrum, holistic, panoramic way. When problems occur, don’t treat the symptoms; correct the root cause. Set aside the straws. Take off the blinders. Go outside. (Yes, we know it’s cold in January, still there is much beauty and healing out there!)

And, with Deb’s compassion, care and increasing knowledge and honed skills, it is possible we may be able to help a little with some things that may ail you. If you think we may be of assistance, please contact us .

Peace and health,

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Uncategorized. No comments.

New Year Wishes for 2017 and Beyond

December 31, 2016

May you walk immersed in fields of wildflowers; barefoot in teeming creeks; awed along ridge-tops with endless horizons.  May you climb welcoming trees and savor ripe fruit from their branches.

May you feel the fair breeze caress your skin, hear its voice and understand its language.

May you revel in rich damp soil and smell the ‘green’ of fresh snap peas and the ‘red’ of perfect tomatoes in the garden.

May you laugh often and deeply hand in hand with those you love as you explore Nature together.

Love and starlight to you ~ now and always,
Deb and Harry
Your Grandparents of the ForestDeb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Uncategorized. No comments.

Plant Now for Flowers Next Year!

November 9, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

As the weather cools down, you may find yourself dreaming of NEXT year’s flower bouquets.

bouquet_june_486Now is the time to prepare for at least some of your future garden, because many plants, usually biennials (plants that have a two year life cycle), need a period of cold before they will bloom.

larkspur-row-farmagrostemma-farmPlants like Agrostemma (corn cockles), Bupleurum, bachelor buttons, larkspur, Nigella, Saponaria (soapwort), Scabiosa (pincushion flower) that bloom in early spring can be planted now by direct seed. (Though it may be too late in some areas –check with your local cooperative extension office.) Follow the directions provided on the seed packet or catalog for soil depth and exact timing (larkspur, for example won’t germinate if the soil is too warm).

snap-dark-pink-farm

Other biennials/perennials, like foxglove, Echinacea, snapdragons, lupine and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Dianthus (sweet William) and others should have been started as seed back in mid- to late summer, but if you can find starts (young plants) at your local nursery, now is the time to get them in.foxglove-farm-perennial-bed

 

Yet other flowers like cosmos, zinnia, sunflowers and many more are annuals and are planted in spring.  So dream on and make your plans for them in patience.

 

 

august-flower-fieldOr, if you would rather have Nature do your gardening for you in a ‘wilder’ setting, there are some native wildflowers with which you can assist.

cardinal-flowerI am having a hard time thinking of a brighter red naturally occurring in wild Nature than a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) other than its namesake, a mature male Cardinal himself. The North American native Cardinal Flower grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9 in wet, poorly drained places, though they also grow in drier conditions. (Cornell University claims they may survive even in Zone 2!)

Cardinal Flower prefers full sun in cooler climates but needs part shade in the warmer part of its range. (They are very happy in the middle of our wet Zone 6 mountain meadow.)

To have your own intensely red insect attractant, collect the seed when the seed heads have matured (or purchase from a reputable seed source) and scatter the tiny seeds where you want them to establish. (Where you can easily see them, of course!) Scatter these seeds in late fall soon after they ripen or through early Spring since they also need to be “stratified” by cold to germinate. Do not cover them because, as with most tiny seeds, they need light to germinate.

Since Cardinal Flower is a short-lived perennial, let the plants reseed (which they should do naturally) to maintain the population.

joe-pye-yellow-swallowtailThe tall pink-lavender topped Joe-Pye Weed (there are several Eutrochium species) with its whorled leaves is native to Zones 4 through 9. Growing and germinating conditions for Joe-Pye Weed are similar to Cardinal Flower. You might want to plant these as more of a ‘backdrop’ since these plants can get quite tall.

 

great-blue-lobelia-fieldAnd Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is also native to Zones 2 through 9, from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and blooms in late summer with the other two flowers above. Growing and germinating conditions are the same as above for this beautiful, though somewhat shorter, plant.

These three plants bloom in late summer (late July to  early September around here) when the bees need to be collecting nectar for winter honey stores and before the later Asters and Goldenrod begin blooming.

 

Get out there and beautify the future!Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Gardening, Harry, Spring, Summer, Winter. No comments.

Crawfishing

September 23, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

crawfish

Yesterday, I was scooping water from our little stream to water in some transplants and caught this little critter.  It brought back many memories.

 

In Louisiana, there are hunting seasons, fishing seasons and seasons for harvesting the various indigenous shellfish: shrimp, oysters, crabs and crawfish. You may know these crustaceans as “crayfish” or “crawdads” or “mudbugs”, but I grew up calling them “crawfish”.

There are several ways to crawfish (verb).

I remember going out at night with my parents and grandparents collecting crawfish as they traveled from their burrows to who knows where… maybe to visit their girlfriends. Their burrows where easy to spot: the crawfish would build a ‘chimney’ around the entrance to the hole with little balls of mud. I have seen crawfish chimneys several inches tall.

Each person had a pail and a light: either a flashlight, or headlamp or white-gas lantern. We roamed around a field near a swamp searching for the crustaceans. When we found one, we would step gently on its head and pick it up by its tail. You pinned its head with your foot so it would not pinch your fingers with its big claws that it waved around in self-defense.

 

Another memory came to me that I cannot shake.  It involves another way to catch crawfish.

When I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, my Dad took me crawfishing across the river. That would be the west bank of the Mississippi River.

You can catch crawfish in a special net or trap. The net we used was a cotton net (My paternal Grandpa could make these nets! It may be a lost art now.) suspended between two pieces of stiff wire bent to form the top four sides of a pyramid with the net being the bottom of the pyramid. The net-bottomed pyramid is placed in water about 12 to 18 inches deep so that the top of the wire pyramid is visible above the water surface. You usually tie a piece of brightly colored cloth to the top so the net is easy to spot as you ‘run your line’. I can still see the bright dark red strips of cloth identifying our traps.

Now, crawfish are freshwater, bottom-dwelling scavengers. They particularly like chicken necks. So most people tie a piece of chicken neck in the center of the net to attract the critters.

If you ‘fish’ from a bank you use a long pole with a hook – sometimes just a nail or screw put into the side of one end – to reach out, quietly move the end of the pole under the apex of the pyramid, quickly lift it out of the water, swing it over a tub or bucket to dump your catch. You have to do this quickly since the net has no sides and the crawfish will swim or scuttle out – backwards, as that is how they move – if you are too slow.

 

Well, this particular crawfishing trip I remember so vividly, was to a pond – or swamp – that didn’t have a shore we could walk along.

Dad had 20 or 30 traps (maybe more or less – it was a long time ago and I was little so everything is probably remembered much bigger than it really was). The two wires that held the net were attached at the apex in such a way they that they sprung apart when the net was flipped once or twice.

All the traps were opened and set out like rows of ghost tents as Dad tied the bait in the center of each net.

Then came the part I remember best.

I climbed on my Dad’s back with my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist as he waded out into the pond and set each trap in a big circle in the water.

When we got back to the start we waited. I don’t remember how long, for a child that young, it was probably interminable. Then I climbed back on Dad’s back and he walked s-l-o-w-l-y around the pond from trap to trap with a pole in one hand and a galvanized washtub floating beside us. You know:  the kind of tub you fill with ice to chill watermelon on a hot summer day, or wash your dog in.

He moved slowly to not scare the crawfish away from their short feast in our nets. In one smooth motion, he would reach out with the pole lift the trap, let is slide down the pole, over the tub and then tip our prey out. He would pick out the under-sized ones and toss them back… probably to be caught several more times before the day was over.

This had to have been a difficult and amazing feat to perform with a small child half strangling him and in such a way as to not dump said clinging cargo into the water. You know, it’s possible I rode on Dad’s shoulders straddling his neck, but that is not the memory that sticks.

We went around and around the pond, me encumbering him, until the tub was full enough for a big dinner for the whole family.

 

Let me tell you, a shellfish dinner in Louisiana (maybe other places, too, but I grew up there and not elsewhere) is quite an affair:

Huge pots of water are brought to a boil and special Cajun seafood spices are added then the entrée are dumped in and cooked. This works for crawfish, crabs or shrimp… and we are usually talking a bushel or two of food at a time!

In the meantime, the dining table is covered in several layers of newspaper.

When the seafood is done cooking – not more than a very few minutes – it is extracted from the pot and dumped into the middle of the table in a huge pile. Shells and other inedible parts are placed onto separate dishes or special metal platters.

When the last crawfish is consumed or peeled and set aside – because it is seldom the case that it is all eaten – to go into a later gumbo or jambalaya, the whole multilayer newspaper table covering is folded and rolled into one big bundle and put in the trash.

 

You don’t have to carry your child into the swamps to strongly imprint lasting memories of the outdoors. There are plenty of other adventures awaiting for you and them.  What wonderful memories can you create with your child?

 Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Amphibians, Harry. No comments.

The Growing Season Ends

September 13, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Hopefully, you have had a successful garden this year and, literally, enjoyed the fruits of your labor.

If you have followed our Gardening with Children Guide, you will soon be finishing this year’s activities and harvesting the last veggies and enjoying and cutting the last flowers.

What now?

If your plants have finished producing, it is time to pull them out.   “Finished producing” means the plants are dead or dying or all the fruit is harvested and no more flowers are appearing promising more fruit. If they are healthy, you can put them in your compost.  If they are infested with pests or disease, it is best to remove them by putting them in a plastic bag, tying it closed and disposing of it.  If you don’t pull this year’s dead plants out, they may set and shed seed.  This is not a problem, but if you want to ‘rotate your crops’ you may have to deal with ‘weeds’ next year.

I tend to have dill and cilantro all over my garden every year.  A random marigold is a whimsical addition (and some marigolds deter nematodes).  This may be a blessing, not a problem, but some larger plants, like tomatoes and kale might end up crowding out the things you plant next year if left to their own devices.

open-bean-pods-gotfIf you intentionally let some of your crops go to seed, like the dill, cilantro, beans, calendula, sunflowers, etc. (see our Facebook posts on the subject), it should be about time to collect those seeds if you have not already.  Once the seeds are collected you can pull out the plants and add them to the compost.

We assume you have been weeding your garden, whether in the ground or in containers, all through the growing season to cut down on competition from ‘weeds’ for precious nutrients and water.  Even though your garden is finishing up, you should pull out and remove all ‘weeds’ that may have escaped notice.  If they are flowering or have seeds on them you should not put them in your compost.  Compost needs to get pretty hot to kill seeds.

 

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”  That means if some thing is not growing in a space, some other thing will arrive to fill it.  So bare soil will invite seeds blown or dropped in to germinate and root.

You can prevent this in a couple of different ways:

If you are growing in containers and they are small enough to easily move, put them some place where they are not exposed to rain and light.  Any weed seeds will be less likely to germinate over winter.

If you are growing in the ground you can:

1) Mulch the soil with three or four inches of grass clippings, shredded leaves, wood chips, straw, etc.  This will protect the soil from erosion and compaction.  It will protect the bacteria, earthworms and other denizens of the soil from the harsh extremes of winter.  It will also deny weed seeds light so any seeds that do germinate will die due to lack of light.  Those that do make it through the mulch will be easy to remove.  And as the mulch decomposes, it will add nutrients to the soil.

2) Grow a ‘cover crop’ like crimson clover, rye grain (not rye grass) or mustard.  This will do several things.  It will prevent erosion and compaction.  It will maintain the soil microbiology through winter.  And a legume like crimson clover will add Nitrogen to the soil; rye is “allelopathic” meaning it prevents other plants from growing, so it is a natural weed prevention; mustards kill or suppress diseases and pests.  (Many farmers plant all three for maximum over-winter benefit!  We used to do that on our farm.)  In the spring, you can either cut these to put them in your compost or chop them up (mow them down) and turn them into the soil to break down and add more organic matter to the soil.  If you do grow rye as a winter cover and turn it into your soil, wait two weeks before growing.  The allelopathy will dissipate by then.

3) If you are in a Hardiness Zone which is not too extreme, you can grow a cold tolerant crop into the winter!  If you start your winter crop early enough (now or earlier, depending on the crop and your location), you can be eating kale, carrots, beets, parsley, spinach, collards, lettuce, etc. for quite a while, maybe all the way to spring!  In our Zone 7 farm, we fed customers 10 months a year and ate from our fields all year round!

onionsIf you like garlic or onions and have the room, now is the time to plant some so it will be ready next year.  The onions in the photo at left are bunching onions.  We will pull them through the winter to add to recipes.  Notice the straw mulch to keep down weeds.

 

[If your containers are large or immobile, you can do these things to them also!]

 

Also, if you grow in the ground, now is a good time to have your soil tested.  If needed, agricultural lime applied now will have time to “sweeten” the soil for your next year’s garden.  The results of a soil test will tell you how much to use.

So, a little flurry of activity now as autumn advances will help give you a head start on spring – or you can continue enjoying produce for a while yet.

We hope this helps you continue to enjoy your garden and Nature.  Remember to explain to your young helpers what and why you are doing.  Don’t let good ‘teaching moments’ escape.Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Autumn, Gardening, Harry. No comments.

Good Plants to Know, Part 1

September 7, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

When out and about, whether in the ‘wild’ or wandering through ‘civilization’, there are several plants useful to be able to recognize.

 

The first is Plantain. This common weed came with the European colonists and is everywhere.

Narrow-leaf Plantain

Narrow-Leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

There are two species: Narrow-leaf (Plantago lanceolata) and Wide-leaf (Plantago major). They both work equally well. This is a good plant to be able to recognize when you get stung by an insect.

Pick a couple of leaves, chew them up and apply the chewed pulp to the bite. The saliva is important in activating the healing.

 

The next plant it would help to know is Jewelweed or Wild Touch-Me-Not. Its second name comes from the explosive way the fruit shatters to spread its seeds.

There are two species of this plant also: Spotted (Impatiens capensis), with orange flowers and Pale (Impatiens pallida) with pale yellow flowers. Both species get their more common name, Jewelweed, from the silvery shimmer a leaf submerged in water displays.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

Pale Jewelweed Flower

Pale Jewelweed Flower

This succulent plant is often found in moist soil, along streambeds, forest edges and roadsides. It is also often found near Poison Ivy – which is a good thing because Jewelweed is an antidote for Poison Ivy rash!

Just pick some leaves and stems, crush them up and rub the pulp on the exposed skin.

 

 

The next plant is useful to know so you can avoid it: Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, formerly Rhus toxicodendron). It is characterized by three waxy-leathery leaflets and a very ‘hairy’ vine stem. It has white flowers and berries and the leaves turn a beautiful red in autumn.

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy Stem

Poison Ivy Stem

The winter-dormant roots and long-dead vines will still have the urushiol toxin, so it is good to know what they look like also. The roots tend to be orangish-yellow with many side rootlets.

If you rub against this plant, wash with cold water and LOTS of soap with scrubbing as soon as possible. If a rash develops, rub the rash with Jewelweed.

 

 

Lastly, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a good friend to have around.

Put a poultice of yarrow leaves and flowers on a bruise to help it heal quicker.

Yarrow

Yarrow

And Yarrow leaves will stop bleeding from wounds like cuts, punctures and scrapes. You can dry the fine feathery leaves and carry them with you in an emergency first-aid kit.

When going out, know your friends.  Have fun and be safe.Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Harry, Medicinal. No comments.

Shared Meals from the Garden ~

July 26, 2016

Contributed by Deb

garden bountyOur garden was completely full last week and now, we have some vacant rows.  We’ve dug all the potatoes and garlic and the first planting of beans are finishing up, the second planting of beans are ready to begin harvesting ~ and now, it’s time to plant more for fall.  We can almost do a complete meal from the garden when we use squash, the first of the tomatoes, dill, cilantro, beets, cabbage, lettuce and tiny baby carrots. We also have some ‘alien-looking’ kolrabi that is about the right size to harvest.

Cabbage, Zucchini, Sungold cherry tomatoes, yellow 'wax' beans and coriander (Cilantro seed)

Cabbage, Zucchini, Sungold cherry tomatoes, yellow ‘wax’ beans and coriander (Cilantro seed)

Harry and I, of course, eat nearly every meal together.  Harvesting from the garden, cooking together and then eating meals together is one of our favorite things in the whole world. Everything tastes better and is fresher, of course, but the added touch of love and care that is shared gives extra nutrition for body and soul.  I often forget that the extra love and prayers that I can add to my cooking will be felt by those eating the meal!

We both had a tradition from our childhoods.  Sundays were special.  My grandparents came for dinner and would bring food from their garden or the farm roadside markets in my home state of Ohio. Mom would always have fresh pies in the summer – blueberry, strawberry, cherry, peach – even grape! (Yes, she peeled and pitted each grape!).  Harry always ate Sunday lunch and/or supper at one or the other of his grandparents homes.  Vegetables often came from the gardens, either fresh or frozen, and the meat was often raised and butchered by a relative.  His maternal Grandma often made a lemon meringue pie for his Dad.

Our children are scattered to the winds, but these traditions are still practiced by others:  one of our neighbor’s house is filled every Sunday afternoon with offspring and grandchildren.

Such simple things ~ and yet they can make a positive impact on us that lasts a lifetime.Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Uncategorized. No comments.

Peaceful Path

July 19, 2016

Contributed by Deb

I (Deb) was born in 1960 and grew up during a very unsettled time in the world.  I remember watching news of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King on our black and white TV with only two channels.  The nightly news repeatedly featured Vietnam, peace rallies in Washington DC and on my mom’s birthday, 4 May 1970,  the horrific massacre at Kent State University occurred.  My father required me to sit down and watch as Nixon resigned.  He said I would never live to see another event like it in my life.
Vietnam created an undercurrent of anxiety in our house. I had older draft-age brothers. One brother was college bound and my other brother drew draft number 8 and enlisted, only to have the draft abolished a few weeks after joining up.  As he left for his Marine basic training in NC, I sat under the dining room table with our collie crying and trembling. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again.
Nightmares started. I would often wake up and find myself in tears outside my parent’s bedroom door. One recurring dream haunted me.  Soldiers shooting the Vietcong would come alive as little miniature people and move around the edge of my bed, coming closer and closer.  I would wake up with a scream.
I doubt my parents understood the depth of fear that was in my heart.  Probably, were to read my account above, they would dismiss it.  I can assure you, it is etched deep in my heart.

I am concerned about the children growing up in our politically chaotic world these days.  The too-often repeated violence of terrorism and shootings make us all a bit on edge.  Children sense this and can take it on in ways that we can hardly imagine.

May I offer some suggestions?

P1080261Pay attention.  Is your child showing any signs of stress?  Has their sleeping pattern changed?  Are they more moody?  Do they cry more easily than usual or get upset about small things? Perhaps they are taking longer naps?

Your child may not, probably will not, be able to verbalize their stress to you but if you can keep in mind that the overlying stress of the world around them may be at the root of some of the changes in their behavior, you can begin to address it.

What can you do?

If you are seeing patterns of stress in your child, of course, you can talk to them about it.  Just naming the emotion they might be feeling may be able to lift some of the burden from them.  There’s no need to go into deep conversations with them.  After helping them to name their emotion, assure them it is a normal response and reassure them that you are there for them and that you are protecting them.  Your consistency of care will go a long way towards easing their distress.

Providing a ritual of protection may also be helpful.  You may want to use dried yerba santa and/or yarrow and sprinkle it around their bed while saying prayers of protection and peace.  Or perhaps have them carry some with them throughout their day, just a little bit in a pocket.  Rituals create a sense of comfort and provide a pattern in their life. It’s something they can come back to time and time again.  And these two herbs do help.  It may sound like ‘magic’  but these herbs have been shown to have a protective energy.

Red Clover SF 900x900I have also made a special flower essence blend called “Peaceful Path”.  It’s a combination of yarrow (for protection), red clover (for shock and trauma) and hawthorn (for healing of the heart).  This combination is helpful for both children and those of us adults who are feeling the stress of these times. You can purchase this blend here.  If you’d like a package of both the essence blend and one ounce each of dried yarrow and yerba santa, please go here.

I want to remind you dear parents, it’s crucial that you take care of yourself also, not just for your own sake but also for your child’s sake ~ so that you are able to support them.
We all process things differently and need different aids at different times.  Perhaps you need to talk things through with like-minded people so you have their support?  Perhaps you tend towards activism and need to rise up?  Perhaps you are more contemplative and need to go within?  Honor your differences and take your needs seriously.  Tend to your heart.

Dear friends, let us also remind you to return to Nature during this time.  Take a few extra minutes to observe the many miracles in our world.  Sit quietly someplace where the peace of Nature – the sights, sounds and smells – can calm, sooth and heal.  And remember, when you are looking at the sunset, clouds, sun or moon, you are deeply connected to everyone else noticing them as well.  We are bound together by this world we live in and we can find respite in her arms.

Much tenderness and love to you,
Deb (and Harry)
Your Grandparents of the ForestDeb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Medicinal. No comments.

Grow or Pick Your Own

June 27, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Do you need something to do that is both fun and educational (and delicious)?

There is nothing better to teach an appreciation of the source of the food we eat, and the effort it takes to get that food to our table than a visit to a pick-your-own farm, berry patch or orchard.

P1110803We greatly miss the fresh blueberries we used to grow on our farm and have wanted to visit a blueberry farm down the road from us ever since we found out about it. We finally had the time and memory to go during blueberry season.

The berries were big and juicy and tasty. There were also plum, pear, peach and apple trees and currants – though only the currants were ready to harvest.P1110800

There were several varieties growing there. Some varieties ripen early, some later. This allows for a longer harvest and less fruit is likely to go un-harvested if it all ripens at once.

During your picking, ask the farmer how he or she takes care of the crop. Are the crops grown organically? How are the crops fertilized? How are they watered? Does she prune the plants? When and how? What varieties does she grow? Why? What special soil conditions do the crops need? What pests eat his crops and what does he do about it? (Our blueberry grower plays a loud series of bird alarm calls to keep several species of hungry birds away so people can eat them first! It seemed to be working since there were a lot of berries to pick.)P1110808

 

We also visited a local nursery. Not the kind with human babies; the kind with lots of plant babies. They had lots of tiny seedlings just starting and bigger plants ready to plant in a garden or put on a table.

You can learn how to start your own seeds, how to attract butterflies and more by talking to the people that own or work at a nursery.

There is SO much to learn from people who grow our food and help us grow our own food and make our home pretty.

 Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Gardening, Harry, Herbs, Spring, Summer. No comments.